In his State of the Union address, President Bush outlined a new energy plan calling for the production of 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2017. In a teleconference Wednesday, Ron Miller, Chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association, and RFA President Bob Dinneen said that the ethanol industry cannot meet that goal with corn as the only feedstock for ethanol. Miller and Dinneen stress the importance of developing cellulosic ethanol as a commercially viable fuel source as a necessary part of meeting the goal outlined by Bush.
Until cellulosic ethanol production takes off, the two RFA leaders express confidence in the U.S. corn supply and biotechnology's ability to increase yield per acre, saying they expect a possible doubling of corn yield in 20 years.
Miller and Dinneen point out that addition of standalone cellulosic ethanol plants using feedstock such as switchgrass or municipal waste would require the development of new transportation infrastructures, whereas an infrastructure for transporting corn is well established, meaning "we're a long way away from gaining the efficiencies" already in place in the infrastructures of corn-based ethanol production.
This means the development of commercially viable methods for using corn materials already arriving at ethanol plants may lead to the first and most efficient cellulosic ethanol feedstock.
Dinneen says he expects existing ethanol plants to be the first to produce cellulosic ethanol commercially. "I think you'll see cellulosic ethanol commercially viable much sooner than you think," he says.